Were the Rights to the Board Game Operation Sold for Just $500?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: The board game Operation was sold for just $500.

For over fifty years, fans of all ages have enjoyed the board game Operation, in which players have to test their precision skills by trying to lift items from small holes in a board (the board is of a man and the items are in parts of his body, like removing an apple from where his Adam’s apple would be – stuff like that) using a metal tweezers. If the tweezers hit the metal sides of the holes, then an electrical current is connected and a buzzer goes off and the patient’s nose lights up.

As the story goes, the whole rights to the game were sold for $500 and a job – and only one of those two things ever actually happened!

Is it true?
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How Did the Tonight Show Save Twister From Oblivion?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Twister avoided going under by getting the game to appear on The Tonight Show.

Something that always perks my interest in a legend is when the dates don’t quite check out. In the case of this legend, the dates really don’t work. So I sort of surprise myself with my ultimate answer…

Twister, as you are all quite aware, is a very popular game for Milton Bradley where the contestants are the game pieces. You are randomly assigned colors on a board where you have to place your arms and legs.

The object, then, is to be the last person left standing.

The game has an interesting history…
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Did Milton Bradley Invent the Paper Cutter?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Milton Bradley invented the paper cutter.

It is pretty weird that in the relaof Board Game Legends Revealed, TWO of them involve the life of Milton Bradley (here‘s the earlier one).

In any event, last time around, I told the tale of how Milton Bradley’s career as a lithographer was turned upside down by Abraham Lincoln growing a beard, which led Bradley to try out different enterprises, ending up with the creation of the board game The Checkered Game of Life.

However, Bradley is ALSO credited in many places with inventing the paper cutter (just tossing one recent one out there, in Samuel Greengard’s 2008 book, AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life, he states declaratively “Bradley, who also invented the paper cutter”).

This is untrue.

It is basically a mixture between the standard “telephone game” approach to urban legends as well as the adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Bradley received a patent in 1881 for a one-armed paper cutter. That much is true. However, the patent was for an IMPROVEMENT on the paper cutter, which had existed in the modern form for nearly forty years at that point. Guillaume Massiquot developed the basic design of the modern paper cutter.

Here’s an 1878 advertisement for a paper cutter…

However, earlier versions of the device dated back even earlier to the 1820s…

So the little knowledge of Bradley patenting a paper cutter soon developed into Bradley inventing the paper cutter.

But hey, nothing wrong with improving a good invention! That’s still quite commendable.

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Why Did the Board Game Version of the $25,000 Pyramid Not Actually Have a Pyramid In It?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: The Milton Bradley board game for the Pyramid television show was different from the game on the show because the show was worried that the gave would help potential contestants too much.

Created by legendary game show producer Bob Stewart, the Pyramid was a long-running game show based on celebrities pairing up with contestants to get their partner to guess words or phrases based on descriptions given by them.

It started as the $10,000 Pyramid, but gained its greatest popularity as the $25,000 Pyramid…

There was also a $100,000 Pyramid.

The name of the show comes from the famous conclusion of the show, where the contestant who won the regular game would go into the “Winner’s Circle” and go up a “pyramid” of six categories (each one more difficult as you went up the pyramid) where, in a reverse of the regular game, instead of guessing words within a category, you would have to guess a category through a list of words (“Andy, Anne, Andrea…” “Names beginning with A!” Stuff like that).

It was a very popular show, and naturally enough, it received a “play at home” board game edition from Milton Bradley.

In fact, there were EIGHT editions of the Milton Bradley board game…

However, there was a major problem with the board game, at least as far as the show’s producers saw it, which is why the Pyramid’s board game does not come with a Pyramid section!

You see, there were only a relatively small amount of possible categories for the Winner’s Circle. In fact, if you watch the show long enough, you’ll begin to see the same categories re-used fairly often.

So if they were to put those categories into the board game, prospective contestants would have a strong chance at being able to practice with categories that would actually end up being used ON the show!!

They did not like that idea, so the Milton Bradley game did NOT have a Winner’s Circle round. So the Pyramid did not have a Pyramid! Instead, for the final round, players would use the same categories that they played the regular rounds in, they’d just have to get all six of the words/phrases correct to win.

In 1986, Milton Bradley lost the license to a new company, Cardinal Games, which FINALLY were allowed to use the Winner’s Circle…

And the Winner’s Circle continues to the most recent home version, made by Endless Games…

It is good to know that their paranoia did not last to this day!

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Did the Owners of the Board Game, Candyland, Have to Sue a Porn Company for the Rights to Candyland.com?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Candyland had to sue to get the rights to candyland.com away from a porn company.

Candyland, currently produced by Hasbro, is one of the most popular board games currently being produced.

A simple and colorful game, it is notable for being one of the first board games that young children can play.

So that made it all the more sketchy when a company called Internet Entertainment Group launched a softcore porn website in 1996 called candyland.com.
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Was Monopoly Once Ruled a Generic Term and Thus Not Protected by Trademark?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Monopoly was once ruled a generic term and un-trademarkable.

As noted in the last Board Game Urban Legend, Parker Brothers had a specific version of the history of Monopoly that went pretty much unchallenged until the mid-1970s, when aa San Francisco State University economics professor named Ralph Anspach attempted to sell a game called Anti-Monopoly.

Here is a second edition of Anti-Monopoly…

Parker Brothers tried to stop him, and in the long legal squabble that ensued (which Anspach took all the way to the Supreme Court!), the history of Monopoly was finally brought to light.
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Was Monopoly Invented as a Tool to Teach People the Evils of Capitalism?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: The predecessor to Monopoly was created to demonstrate the teachings of Georgism.

For years, it has been basically a given that Charles Darrow created Monopoly. Heck, if you go to Parker Brothers’ official website for Monopoly, you’ll see on their history of Monopoly page…

It was 1934, the height of the Great Depression, when Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania, showed what he called the MONOPOLY game to the executives at Parker Brothers. Can you believe it, they rejected the game due to “52 design errors”! But Mr. Darrow wasn’t daunted. Like many other Americans, he was unemployed at the time, and the game’s exciting promise of fame and fortune inspired him to produce the game on his own. With help from a friend who was a printer, Mr. Darrow sold 5,000 handmade sets of the MONOPOLY game to a Philadelphia department store. People loved the game! But as demand for the game grew, he couldn’t keep up with all the orders and came back to talk to Parker Brothers again. The rest, as they say, is history! In its first year, 1935, the MONOPOLY game was the best-selling game in America. And over its 65-year history, an estimated 500 million people have played the game of MONOPOLY!

While that is certainly TRUE, what is also true is that Darrow basically just re-named an existing game.

The history of Monopoly really begins in a very unlikely place – the philosophical theories of Henry George.


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How Did Missing Scrabble Pieces Lead to the Creation of Trivial Pursuit?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: For lack of a Scrabble tile, Trivial Pursuit was born.

Scott Abbott and Chris Haney were two 30-year-old Canadian journalists who were also good friends. They would routinely play Scrabble with each other, evenly matched enough that both men got a more or less equal chance to brag. However, a little before Christmas in 1979, the two men decided that they would have a knockdown, dragged out grudge match Scrabble tournament for complete Scrabble bragging rights.

That tournament would ultimately change board game history forever, for a surprising reason!
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Did a Chess Player Once Die From Complications From Playing Chess Blindfolded?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Harry Nelson Pillsbury died due to the ill effects of playing chess blindfolded.

Harry Nelson Pillsbury was one of the most successful chess players of the late 19th/early 20th century, holding the United States Chess Championship title for almost a decade (a title he lost only upon dying).

Pillsbury mastered a unique type of chess playing to make a little extra money while playing chess. Pillsbury was a master at “blindfold chess,” which is where a player plays a game of chess strictly by memorizing where the pieces are on the board.

Here are some players doing a game of modern blindfold chess (the computer tracks the pieces for them)…

As you might imagine, following an entire chess game just in your memory is quite difficult.

In 1902, just four years before his death at the age of 33, Pillsbury played 22 simultaneous blindfold games of chess!!

Playing that many games in your head can be pretty difficult, and there are those that say it all takes quite a hit on your nervous system.

In fact, due to health concerns, Russia has banned blindfold chess since 1930!

So when Pillsbury suddenly became sick in his early 30s and died in 1906 at just 33, people were looking for an explanation for his death, as he did not seek any treatment for his disease.

So as the story goes, it was the blindfold chess that was killing him.

Is that true?
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How Did Abe Lincoln Growing a Beard Kick Start Milton Bradley’s Gaming Career?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Milton Bradley got into board games because Abraham Lincoln grew a beard.

Milton Bradley (1836-1911) was a Massachusetts draftsman who turned to lithography to make a living in 1860.

In 1860, Bradley lucked into one of the hottest selling lithographs of the day, a popular portrait of the man who would become President of the United States that year, Abraham Lincoln.

Massachusetts was almost universally Republican at the time, so Bradley was selling the prints constantly, and with Lincoln headed for the White House, Bradley figured he’d have a cash cow for at least the next four years.

Then, something happened that would change Bradley’s life forever.

Abraham Lincoln grew a beard.
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